Research-Training up a Medieval Knight

Photo -- Medieval knights in combat

The Sword of Truth

So, there I am, writing like the wind on my next medieval romance, ideas sparking from my brain, keyboard alight with my progress, when I run smack into a simple research question, an insignificant mote of minutia which would add a note of verisimilitude to my reader’s visit to my carefully constructed–already heavily researched–world.

That’s when the writing stops dead and the search for that itty-bitty, I repeat: insignificant, piece of information begins. Yesterday it was: what terms did medieval combat trainers use during training sessions?

That was yesterday. After many tumbles down Google-sized rabbit holes, my question remains unanswered. However I have learned much about swordplay in my search, which will be useful either in this book or upcoming titles. One daunting fact–medieval combat trainers left over 600 training manuals, few have been translated into English, but most have been studied by medieval scholars and combat professionals.

These two websites have added down-and-dirty, truth-on-the-ground, swordplay specifics to my trove of knowledge:

Swordplay for Fantasy Writers

Sword Fighting is Not What You Think

Thank you!

However, since I can’t afford to spend another day searching for this minuscule bit of fluff, I will either not put medieval sword fighting training terms into the mouths of my characters, change the scene, use generic modern terms, or make up a few terms of my own based on the action and reaction to blows and cuts.

Last week I spend a half-day looking for the shape and size of a stoneware soup terrine of the type that was used to serve a table loaded with hungry knights.

Tomorrow, who knows?


Make Do and Mend

Illustrated poster of Women's Land Army

Make Do & Mend

When schools and stores and businesses began shutting down in the wake of Covid-19, and store shelves emptied of the staples of daily life, like bread and milk and toilet paper, I was suddenly struck by a sense of deja vu.

Not my own, but Josie’s.
My research for THE LEGEND OF NIMWAY HALL: 1940-JOSIE dropped me into the middle of wartime shortages of everyday things, food rationing and ‘sheltering in place’ during air raids.
Uncertainty, hunkering down, reaching out to help where you can, making do, mending. 
1940 was totally different time and circumstance, but the shortage crisis strikes a familiar tone as I watch health care providers make do and reuse their personal protection equipment.
THE SET UP: The Women’s Institute (WI) and other organizations collected unused knit goods, unraveled and balled the yarn, then knitted the yarn back into new jumpers (sweaters,) scarves and gloves.
     “There you are, Miss Josie,” Mrs. Peak said the moment Josie entered the parlor where the Knit for a Knight ladies were packing  away their work, “we feared you’d gotten lost in the raid.”
     Thoroughly lost, thoroughly kissed. Good grief, did it show? She  could still feel the heat of him, the taste of him. Her cheeks  were flushed as though she’d run a mile and she wondered if the  women suspected that the reason was Gideon.
     “I was just seeing to the stragglers, Mrs. Peak.” To hide her  blush Josie held out a brown jumper by the shoulders. “It’s  beautiful! Who knitted this?”
     “I did the arms,” Vera said, “and Myrna did the body.”
     “Forty-four jumpers in all,” Mrs. Peak said dropping a pile of  folded knitwear into a box, “and six dozen scarves.”
     “My dear ladies,” Josie said, looking around at their earnest  faces, “I know I don’t say it enough, but I’m so very proud of you  and all the work you do for the war effort. Our men in uniform  will be so grateful come winter to be wearing one of your lovely  creations.” The jumpers were expertly constructed, every knit and  purl made with love toward a complete stranger.
     “If it weren’t for your gift for talking people out of their  donations, Miss Josie,” Vera said, shaking a ball of yarn pulled  from the woman’s own reclaimed cardigan, “we’d not have wool enough to make a single knit cap.”
     Josie smiled. “Let’s keep collecting yarn and knit goods wherever  we can beg them. We’ll meet here again next week, after the  Spitfire Fete. Fingers crossed there’s not another air raid!”


History is the perfect guide to the future, if used to enlighten and include.

Bingeing, Binging, Binger–spelling check, please!

BW photo of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in a skiing scene from I LOVE LUCY

If You’re as Chronologically “Mature” as I am…

… then you remember back when there was no way to record a TV show and watch it later?  You had to  sat and watched Ozzie and Harriet or I Love Lucy as it was broadcast, or you just didn’t get to see it–unless the show was successful enough to have at least 100 episodes in the can, so it could be picked up by one of the local independent stations and re-broadcast as re-runs.  

No home video tape machines. No video tapes to rent from Blockbuster (remember Blockbuster?) We all watched together, at the same time, in our time zone.

The world stopped moving on the three Sunday nights in February of 1964 when The Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.  By this time my family had a color TV and I risked radiation poisoning as I sat two feet from the screen and watched my faves perform twice per show.

Of course, my viewing habits changed with the times, from broadcast to cable, to video, to DVR, then DVD, then Blu-ray and now, Amazon Prime Video, Acorn, Britbox, etc.  

Which brings me to binging.  I am a binger (is that a word?)  Instead of music, I often play the entire Downton Abbey series while I write, like a soundtrack in the background.  If it’s British and has played on PBS, I am or have binged it: Death in Paradise, every episode of Poirot, Marple and Midsomer Murders, Shakespeare and Hathaway, Agatha Raisin, Wycliff, Upstairs/Downstairs, Upstart Crow, Upstart Crow, Upstart Crow…

Turns out that bingeing, binging, bingering–whatever–has also been a boon to our family during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.

I only hope I can stop myself once we’re free to leave the house again.


My Storybook Childhood

Mine was a Storybook Childhood…

… spent just a few leagues from an Enchanted Castle, set in a Magical Kingdom that was ruled by a benevolent wizard whose powerful spells captured my imagination every time my parents took me for a visit.

The moment I walked through the gates of this magical land, I would be greeted by beautiful princesses and their handsome princes, despicable villains and terrifying dragons, fairies and pirates and a talking mouse named Mickey.  Yes, I grew up 10 miles from Disneyland, the original Magic Kingdom.

The photo is my almost 5-year old self on the draw-bridge of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in August 1955. 

The seeds of my passion for writing stories of powerful lords contending with their fierce-hearted ladies were planted in that enchanted soil long before I even knew how to read, let alone, write.  

The magic is plain: that little girl on the castle drawbridge grew up believing in Happily Ever After, because Romance is Timeless, Storytelling has No Age and True Love is Forever.

5 Confessions of a Romance Writer

Because Confession is Good for the Heart…

1.) It took me 17 years to write my first historical romance. Although it (the first 3 chapters) was nominated for RWA’s Golden Heart in 1989, the story itself was utterly unpublishable. Like a repository of bad writing, I keep the manuscript in the attic like an embarrassing uncle, where it takes up three computer paper boxes.

2.) I won the Golden Heart the next time I was nominated (with a totally different story) and sold it, as well as one other book, to Avon Books six weeks later.  All because I finally understood that old advice about romantic conflict: if he’s a firefighter, then she has to be an arsonist.  Metaphorically, speaking, of course. And that she must be acting out of an excess of virtue.

3.) I am a plotter, never been a pantser. Character first, a hero and heroine who will carry the theme and tell the story that I need to tell. By then I’m ready to apply the Hero’s Journey — the clash of their Ordinary Worlds in the Call to Adventure, the motivation to Cross the Threshold into the Special World of their relationship, the Supreme Ordeal, the Reward, the Dark Night of the Soul where each makes a sacrifice, choosing to give and receive unconditional love. Makes it sound easy, but each new book seems harder to write, has different issues than the one before.

4.) The release of a new book continues to thrill me.  A 5-star review sends me over the moon — “you like me! You really like me!” And I won’t consider myself a truly successful author until I see someone reading one of my books on a plane or in an airport.

5.) I deliberately used the surnames of 26 friends in one of my books: A SCANDAL TO REMEMBER.  While I was on a singing tour of the Baltic Countries I was also researching the history of small countries, duchies in the 18th century. To memorialize our 3 week bus tour from town to town, I thought it would be fun to include the members of the choir.  Some are characters, one is a statue of a local hero, one is the name of a village another is the name of a plant species in the heroine’s greenhouse!  Great fun!  FYI-SCANDAL is currently only available from 3rd party sellers, but I’ll be re-issuing it in digital and print format in December 2020.